Today, the New York State Quarter Coin remembers the bravery of the men defending Fort Oswego in May 1814.
The small American force, greatly outnumbered by the British, lost the fort but protected their objective and with significantly fewer men killed, wounded and missing than their foe.
From the Collection Of The Official Accounts, In Detail, Of All The Battles Fought By Sea And Land, Between The Navy And Army Of The United States, And The Navy And Army Of Great Britain by H. A. Fay, published in 1817:
AFFAIR AT OSWEGO.
Copy of a letter from Maj. General Brown, to the Secretary of War, dated-
H. Q. Sacket’s Harbor, May 12, 1814.
SIR — Enclosed is an abstract from the report of Lieut. Col. Mitchell, of the affair at Oswego. Being well satisfied with the manner in which the Colonel executed my orders, and with the evidence given of steady discipline, and gallant conduct, on the part of the troops, I have noticed them in the general order, a copy of which is enclosed.
The enemy’s object was the naval and military stores deposited at the falls, 13 miles in rear of the fort — these were protected. The stores, at the fort and village, were not important.
I am, &c.
JACOB BROWN, Maj. Gen.
COL. MITCHELL’S REPORT.
I informed you of my arrival at Fort Oswego, on the 30th ult.
This post being but occasionally, and not recently occupied by regular troops, was in a bad state of defense. Of cannon, we had but five old guns, three of which had lost their trunnions; what could be done, in the way of repair, was effected; new platforms were laid; the gun-carriages put in order, and decayed pickets replaced.
On the 5th inst. the British naval force, consisting of 4 large ships, three brigs, and a number of gun, and other boats, were descried at revallie-beating, about 7 miles from the fort.
Information was immediately given to Capt. Woolsey, of the navy, (who was at Oswego village,) and to the neighboring militia.
It being uncertain on what side of the river the enemy would land; and my force (290 effectives,) being too small to bear division, I ordered the tents, in store, to be pitched on the village side, while I occupied the other with my whole force; it is probable that this artifice had its effect, and determined the enemy to attack where, from appearances, they expected the least opposition.
About 1 o’clock the fleet approached — fifteen boats, large, and crowded with troops, at a given signal, moved slowly to the shore; these were preceded by gun-boats, sent to rake the woods, and cover the landing, while the larger vessels opened a fire upon the fort.
Capt. Boyle and Lieut. Legate, (so soon as the debarking boats got within range of our shot,) opened upon them a very successful fire from the shore-battery, and compelled them to retire; they at length returned to the ships, and the whole stood off from the shore for better anchorage.
One of the enemy’s boats, which had been deserted, was taken up by us, and some others by the militia; the first mentioned was 60 feet long, carried 36 oars and 3 sails, and could accommodate 150 men.
She had received a ball through her bow, and was nearly filled with water.
Piquet guards were stationed at different points, and we lay on our arms all night.
At day-break, on the 6th, the fleet appeared, bearing up under easy sail. The Wolfe, &c. took a position directly against the fort and batteries, and for three hours kept up a heavy fire of grape, &c.
Finding that the enemy had effected a landing, I withdrew my small disposable force into the rear of the fort, and with two companies, (Romayne’s and Melvin’s,) met their advancing columns, while the other companies engaged the flanks of the enemy.
Lieut. Pearce, of the navy, and some seamen, joined in the attack, and fought with their characteristic bravery.
We maintained our ground about 30 minutes, and as long as consisted with my further duty of defending the public stores deposited at the falls, which, no doubt, formed the principal object of the expedition, on the part of the enemy.
Nor was this movement made precipitately: I halted within four hundred yards of the fort; Capt. Romayne’s company formed the rear guard; and, remaining with it, I marched to this place in good order, destroying the bridges in my rear.
The enemy landed 600 of De Watteville’s regiment, 600 marines, two companies of the Glengary corps, and 350 seamen.
Gen. Drummond and Com. Yeo were the land and naval commanders; they burned the old barracks, and evacuated the fort about 3 o’clock in the morning of the 7th.
Our loss, in killed, is 6 — wounded, 38 — missing, 25 — total, 69. The enemy’s loss is much greater.
Deserters, and citizens of ours (taken prisoners, and afterwards released,) state their killed at 64, and wounded in proportion.
I cannot close this dispatch without speaking of the dead and the living of my detachment:
Lieut. Blaney, a young man of much promise, was unfortunately killed; his conduct, in the action, was highly meritorious.
Capt. Boyle and Lieut. Legate merit my highest approbation; and, indeed, I want language to express my admiration of their gallant conduct.
The subalterns, McComb, Ansart, Ring, Robb, Earle, McClintock, and Newkirk, performed well their several parts.
It would be injustice, were I not to acknowledge and report the zeal, and patriotism, evinced by the militia, who arrived at a short notice, and were anxious to be useful.
I have the honor, &c.
J. MITCHELL, Lieut. Col
The New York State Quarter Coin shows with an artist’s image of the British tending their wounded at Fort Oswego on May 6, 1814.